Take It to Heart: The Real Deal On Women and Heart Disease

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9780767923101: Take It to Heart: The Real Deal On Women and Heart Disease

Nobody lived a healthier or more active life. She was the juicing guru to the stars. She exercised and ate right. But at forty-seven Pamela Serure, exhausted, in pain, and with diagnoses ranging from menopause to anxiety, discovered that she had heart disease. Lifestyle and diet couldn’t correct what her genes had determined. With two days to get her affairs in order, Pamela prepared for triple bypass surgery to correct three almost completely clogged arteries.

What the doctors missed and what most women don’t seem to know is that heart disease is the number-one killer of American women. It kills more women than all the cancers combined. Traditional markers of heart disease, such as high cholesterol, may not apply to women. As a result, doctors consistently misdiagnose female patients with anxiety, digestive distress, or symptoms of menopause.

Blindsided by her sudden bypass surgery, Pamela Serure turned her life-altering experience into a personal mission to help educate other women about this dangerous and far-reaching disease. In this book Pamela opens the door to her recovery process and tells readers what the doctors won’t. She has found experts to offer advice so that readers will know exactly what to look for and what tests to demand. Women share stories of how they persisted in having the cardiac tests run that saved their lives and others share stories of women they lost because of a missed diagnosis. Comforting, funny, and soulful, this is the book that will empower women to take charge of their heart health. As Pamela says, “These days heart disease has all my attention, as it should have yours.”

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About the Author:

Pamela Serure has devoted her life to getting the word out on women and heart disease. In the past,she developed the concept for Get Juiced and consulted with over 2,000 clients on how to achieve balance in their lives. She is the author of The 3-Day Energy Fast and its revised edition, 3 Days to Vitality. Prior to Get Juiced, she did marketing and product development her own company, Just Kidding, and Kids USA and consulted for the Donna Karan Company and Starbucks, as well as licensing for many fashion brands. She also conducts workshops and retreats for women in the areas of emotional and spiritual growth. She lives in New York City

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1.
WAKE-UP CALL

I always thought of my life as a real heart-on.
That is, up until the day my heart turned off.

--PAMELA SERURE
I am writing about a broken heart. Not the variety that comes from a disrupted family or a disillusioned love affair, nor the kind brought about by a longing that has never been fulfilled. Not that I haven't experienced those; I assure you I have endured all the varieties. But this particular story is about a different sort of heartbreak--the heartbreak caused by heart disease.
The Heart Truth
Heart disease is the number-one killer
of American women.

--AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION (AHA), 2005
I have always thought of my heart as being on--vibrant, open, optimistic, and exuberant. Ever since I was a kid, I had believed that everything was possible. I knew that I was wanted and loved by my parents and my larger family, and that knowledge gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams. Being a born Scheherazade, I enjoyed playing to the crowd and lived for adventure.

I never married or had children, because I didn't want to give up my freedom. Looking back on those choices, I recognize the profound emotional gratification I deprived myself of. Nevertheless, as life progressed, my various careers--designing jewelry, merchandising and creating fashion, and developing innovative health concepts--brought me much recognition and many accolades and awards. I felt satisfied (to a point) and successful (to a degree). Many of my friends became famous and I played on the fringes of celebrity.

In my early forties, I wrote my first book, 3 Days to Vitality, based on my healthy detox program, Get Juiced. I had become a juice-fasting guru among the Hampton set and was already two decades into meditation and yoga, but my internal mantra was "Do more--be more, have more." I still binged on stress whenever and wherever it appeared. It was the diet of choice for women on the fast track, and I was a born sprinter. Stress was a habit I sipped like a triple latte. But just like caffeine, stress provided only a false sense of being energized, and it barely kept me afloat. Also, it brought along with it its constant companions: cortisol, the stress hormone, which ravages the body, and adrenal fatigue, a burnout condition all of us stress junkies eventually experience. In never stopping, never taking no for an answer, never being or doing enough, I was wearing my heart out while my mind kept on going. But I wasn't paying attention. Sound familiar?

I genuinely liked the person I was. I was at an exhilarating point in my life and I still believed that I could do anything . . . up until the day when my heart turned off. That is when I had to surrender the "More" and "Go"--the two commands by which I'd operated my life. Heart disease became my wake-up call: I had to stop listening to that prodding mantra and pay attention to the messages from my heart that I had ignored. Heart disease shocked me into accepting that my relentless drives had been serviced by all the emotions I had kept in check for years: doubt, fear, judgment, and a feeling of not being good enough. Those drives had kept me away from a deeper place of rest and gratitude in my life. And I needed to get to that place. I needed to put on the brakes and get down to the business of healing.

Heart disease is the body's way of saying stop: Stop driving yourself; stop overreaching; stop trying to fix the world. Just stop whatever it is that you were so hell-bent on doing and breathe.

All my dreams, confidence, creativity, and healthy living could not protect me from where my heart was about to take me . . . which was not, as I'd often hoped, to the love of my life or to all my dreams fulfilled, but to a 99 percent blockage of my arteries and triple bypass surgery. I had heart disease, the old man's disease. The disease for people who don't take care of themselves. The disease of denial for young and vital women. I was no longer feeling the glow of the Golden Child, nor like a lucky person, nor even special. When you feel special, you think nothing can penetrate your aura, but it's only a delusion. As it turned out, I was so much more than not special; I was a cookie-cutter case of a woman with heart disease--the family disease, the stress disease. I was one of every two women living silently with our number-one killer. I was one of the eight million American women whose hearts had turned off.
The Heart Truth
One out of 2.5 American women will die
from heart disease or stroke.

--AHA, 2005
In the seven years since my first heart event, I've arduously come to terms with what happened. For starters, I finally had to admit that I had a broken heart--from promises unkept, from love unmet, from genes unknown. Second, I had to stop. Stop all the movement, the nonsense, and, above all, the drama that fed my heart disease what it needed to grow. I had to focus instead on attending to my heart daily by savoring the little pleasures, reprioritizing, and relearning how life wanted to be lived. Finally, I had to break my denial and admit that I had a chronic disease. I had to surrender to the truth that heart disease and I were going to be lifelong partners.

These days, heart disease has all my attention, as it should have yours. Not only do 1 in 2.5 American women have it but we also die from it faster because it's harder to detect in us, we take longer to get care because we don't know what the symptoms feel like, and we don't want to admit to having it because we fear it is a fatal disease and imagine that it afflicts only aging men. But in truth, it is a woman's fate as much as a man's. Heart disease among women shouldn't be a secret, and I am not keeping it anymore.

Ten years ago, a famous psychic told me that my destiny in this lifetime was to be a teacher of women. Of all the things I'd imagined becoming in my life and had worked to accomplish, being a teacher was never one of them. And yet here I am, called now to share with women the truth about heart disease. My destiny came in an unexpected way, but it's my destiny nonetheless. I'm writing this story now because I have to; I have no choice but to follow my heart. It has become the true story of my life, as it has become the story of so many women's lives.
Heart Song
CATHY A., Atlanta, Georgia

I had my first heart attack at thirty-nine. It was just a hairlike tertiary artery, so I basically ignored it. Told myself it was no big deal. Then at forty-two, I had a massive heart attack. I flatlined thirteen times in two and a half hours. No one in Georgia had ever seen anything like it before. All my major arteries went at once.

The night of my massive heart attack was Tuesday, April 12, 1998. I should've been smarter. I should've known better. Not only had I suffered one heart attack already but I was a rehab nurse at the hospital, so I worked with heart attack and stroke patients all the time. But all I did that night when I started having chest pains was call my mom. I didn't do anything else until 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, when the big pains hit and I started sweating from places I didn't know it was possible to sweat from. That's when I finally went to the hospital.

You know how sometimes you're watching a movie and it fades to black? I was sitting on the gurney, and I did that. Last thing I thought before I flatlined was, I'm screwed. I knew I was dying. There was no way I could hurt the way I hurt and survive. I was panicking. I was telling the nurses I worked with, people who knew me, "I'm dying! I'm dying! I'm dying!" They kept saying, "Calm down." I said, "I'm dead." Then I was gone, down for the count. It was a horrific situation. Every time I came back, I'd start talking as if I was having normal conversation, but then I'd flatline again. After six or seven times, they usually let you go. But my friend Darlene, who was working on me, said, "She's fighting, so we have to fight, too." I was lucky to be at a hospital where the nurses were my friends. So the doctors kept going.

When I woke up seventeen hours later in the ICU, I thought I was dead. I heard a funny noise and wondered why it was so dark. I thought, What? I didn't make it to heaven? I could feel my consciousness trying to wrap itself around the trauma. But then as the fog began to fade, I started thinking, Wow, I'm alive? I was amazed, as were all the nurses.

I put 99 percent of the blame for my heart disease squarely on my own shoulders. I'd spent many years smoking, starting when I was seventeen. Even when I had that minor heart attack at thirty-nine, I quit for only a year, and then I started smoking again. I was also a heavy pot smoker. I drank a lot. I was overweight. I didn't exercise other than to get up to go to the fridge. I didn't have enough respect for myself to pay attention to the gravity of cardiovascular disease. I knew all about heart disease because I worked with people who had it. Yet still I'd say, "I'll drink and smoke till the day I die." And I was true to my word, because I did die, but I was resurrected. The doctors said, "We don't know why you're here." I said, "You know you're in trouble when you go to heaven thirteen times and they put up a sign that says 'Do not disturb.' You know God's got some greater mission for you to accomplish in life."

Since waking up from my heart surgery that day, I've taken my medicine, changed my diet, quit smoking and drinking, and started exercising. I was horrified to know that I had really killed myself.

But I still had battles to fight in this war. After the triple bypass, I did well for about two months, and then I started having trouble again. I'd hurt real bad from angina when I lay down at night, and it would wake me up in the morning. I told my doctors, "Something is wrong." But you know, I'm afraid that when male doctors ...

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